Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Simnel Cake

A Simnel Cake is a 'traditional' cake, these days it's eaten on Easter Sunday.

It's a light fruit cake. The very best ones are home made and are baked with a circular layer of marzipan through the middle of the cake. Once baked and cooled, the top of the cake is decorated with a layer of marzipan and eleven marzipan balls round the outside edge - to represent the 'True Apostles'.

Picture from UtterTrivia

Some people toast the top of the cake, others sprinkle it with icing sugar.

Want to have your own? The easiest way is to buy a ready-made fruit cake, top it with marzipan and pop it under the grill for a few minutes.

Delia has a recipe, but includes an iced topping, which isn't strictly correct. Nigella has one too.

There are some interesting stories here and here

It would seem that the Simnel Cake was originally linked with Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, which was when, according to this site, people took offerings to the Mother Church.
‘I’ll to thee a Simnell bring
‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering,
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me.’

Robert Herrick 1648
Here's an extract from Wikipedia (treat with the usual caution)
A religious festival celebrating motherhood had existed in Europe since Neolithic times. In the Roman religion the Hilaria festival was held in honour of the mother goddess Cybele and it took place during mid-March. As the Roman Empire and Europe converted to Christianity, this celebration became part of the liturgical calendar as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent to honour the Virgin Mary and the "mother church".

During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest Cathedral. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "
a-mothering", although whether this preceded the term Mothering Sunday is unclear.

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since in other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours.


subrosa said...

I was going to make one this year, but as only one in this house eats cake and is still ploughing through the second Delia Carribean Christmas cake, I thought I'd save myself the effort. :)

Interesting history though Mrs R. I'm feeling slightly guilty now.

Mrs Rigby said...

Don't feel guilty, I hadn't realised the history either.

We only ever eat fruit cake for celebrations, and bought a decent (small) ready made and topped it with marzipan ourselves. We gave each ball a face too, although not strictly apostolic - which made the eating all the merrier.